Devils’ First Half of 2021-22 Season Produced Many Frustrations

The New Jersey Devils snapped a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a 7-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens and followed that up with a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Blues a few nights later. While the team seems to be heading in the right direction, it has been a frustrating season for fans who had high, and maybe unrealistic, expectations after signing defenseman Dougie Hamilton and acquiring Ryan Graves and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.

During a recent MSG Broadcast, Steve Cangialosi noted that the Devils have only won 8 of their last 34 games. Thankfully, they won the next two convincingly, but it’s still disappointing. New Jersey’s fans want answers while the players are running out of things to say during their post-game pressers.

Devils Voice Their Frustrations

After a tough day, the last thing you want to do is rehash the play-by-play of what went wrong. A hockey player is not afforded the luxury of saying no. Right after the game, when emotions are running high, some are chosen to meet with the media.

Devils captain Nico Hischier has handled himself well in the press room, considering his team’s performance over the first 46 games. His disappointment has been visible from the second the doors open, and he walks to his place at the podium. Game after game, he has respectfully answered questions, and when his emotions have boiled over, he has apologized for his language. No matter the situation, the 23-year-old has never made excuses for his team’s performance.

Related: Devils Getting Solid Leadership From Nico Hischier

Defenseman Damon Severson offered some insight into the state of the locker room after the Devils’ 7-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs before the All-Star break and confirmed the players were not content with their recent play.

“We have a lot of great people in there [the locker room], but it’s not about being a great person when you lose hockey games. We are here to win,” said Severson. “There is not a smile in that room. No one is sitting in the room joking around. Nobody is happy, and rightfully so.”

Fans Discouraged by Devils’ First Half

Most fans will pinpoint the Devils’ rebuild beginning right after the 2012 season when New Jersey made it to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s not exactly true. The rebuild began around the 2016-17 season, and only three players remain from that roster – Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha, and Severson. The results this season and the emotions that go with them have been a tough pill for fans to swallow.

Damon Severson #28
Damon Severson #28, New Jersey Devils. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Diane Kuhn has been a season ticket holder for 12 seasons. Over the years, she has gone to games, events and traveled to see the Devils on the road. On Feb. 1, she sat in her usual seat and watched the Devils give up six unanswered goals to the Maple Leafs. After 40 minutes, she did something she had never done before, she left Prudential Center.

“Being a season ticket holder for many years, I’ve seen the good and the bad with the Devils,” said Kuhn. “I have to say this year is probably one of the most frustrating. As fans, we have been waiting to see the pieces come together for too long. When fans invest their money in season tickets, they expect a positive return. It’s been far too many years since we’ve seen a decent team on the ice.”

Kuhn is now debating whether she wants to renew her tickets for a 13th season, and she isn’t the only one. Josh Reinitz is in the middle of his first season as a ticket holder and has yet to decide if he will re-up for a second season. While going to Devils games has been a great experience for his family, like Kuhn, he isn’t sure the current experience is worth the price tag.

“I’m torn because it has provided something really cool for my family to do together,” said Reinitz. “I have three daughters, 13, 11, and six, so you can imagine it is difficult to get them to agree in anything, but it is frustrating paying all this money and then getting this product, especially without any communication from the front office.”

For fans, it feels like a never-ending rebuild. The organization took great strides in the offseason, but after the loss of two goaltenders, Miles Wood, and a battle with COVID, New Jersey has not been able to find consistent success.

Devils Need to Keep Looking Forward

There is nothing head coach Lindy Ruff can do about the last 48 games. Athletes need to have short memories and only focus on the task at hand. New Jersey has put together a small winning streak for the first time since the end of December and scored 14 goals in their last two games. But that’s where the frustration stems from, their inconsistency. The same team that played a near-perfect game against the Carolina Hurricanes then lost to the Arizona Coyotes, 4-1. The team is either on or they’re not with no in-between.

Of course, COVID-19 and injuries have been major storylines this season, and Ruff’s team has arguably faced more adversity than any other team in the league. Expectations of competing for a wild-card spot have not been met, but there are reasons to be excited about the future.

Lindy Ruff New Jersey Devils
Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils (Kristy Flannery / The Hockey Writers)

Not every fan has let the negatives overshadow the season. Emily LeBoeuf is the owner of Sports Minded Unlimited and has been a loyal Devils fan for over a decade. She understands the team has needs that must be addressed, but she also sees the overall effort the team has put forth since October.

“Win or lose the Devils are still a highly competitive team,” said LeBoeuf. “Even though they’re having a lot of ups and downs and can’t seem to find consistency, I am still a huge fan and know the team will compete for a full 60-minute game. I’m still not sure what the team’s needs are at this point, but the team wants to win, and the individual effort is there. I wish more fans saw that.”

Andreas Johnsson Dawson Mercer Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
Andreas Johnsson, Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

New Jersey concluded their three-game road trip with a 2-1-0 record and found their scoring touch in the last two games. The truth is, we are still living in unprecedented times, and fans can expect the second half of the season to be filled with more uncertainty. Yes, the Devils only have 39 points, but if the Blues can climb up from the bottom of the standings and win the Stanley Cup, why can’t the Devils play themselves into a wild-card spot?

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